Karamo Brown is embracing a new slogan as he returns for a second season of his daytime talk show: “life gets messy.”
“All of us, in our lives, we have family members, we have relationships with partners, that are messy, and most of us just don’t have the courage to let the world know,” Brown told TheWrap, adding that most people keep their issues “in house” and confide privately in friends and family. “I want people to understand that there’s a strength in vulnerability [and] that comes with people being able to share that.”
Building on the first season of his NBCUniversal syndicated show, the “Queer Eye” star hopes to continue fostering an atmosphere in which every one of his guests can be their “full, authentic self” when his show returns to screens on Monday, Sept. 18. (Since “Karamo” does not employ WGA staffers — “it’s just me, whatever comes up on top my head,” Brown explains — the talk show was able to resume production without being in violation of the strike rules.)
As Brown connects with a wide scope of guests, including mothers and daughters as well as romantic partners, the sophomore season will bring back the “Unlock the Phone” segment, in which Brown unlocks phones with the help of an FBI agent, prompting a larger conversation surrounding the fractured relationship at hand. While Brown first started the segment to give closure to his guests, he admitted that it “took off” as audience members began seeking the service for themselves.
“We got a lot of calls saying ‘I need you to unlock my partner’s phone, I need to unlock my child’s phone … so I can get the answers of what’s going on with them,’” Brown said. “It’s the beginning piece of a bigger conversation.”
Unlocking phones won’t always solve people’s problems, though, as Brown recalled one notable recording in which he chose not to dig deeper when he saw that a husband was displaying controlling behaviors to his wife that seemed to be close to abuse.
“We were there to unlock the phone [and] I decided halfway through the show, I wasn’t gonna unlock any phones, because this is a bigger issue,” Brown recalled. “I was like, ‘she’s in a controlling relationship, and this is going to lead to you getting abused.’ I convinced her to leave him, and they took separate flights home.”
While Brown serves as an empathetic listener for his guests and points them in directions that might be helpful for them — including plenty of free therapy — he knows he’s only the “first step” on his guests’ journeys.
“I can’t solve someone’s entire life in 45 minutes — I couldn’t do it on an episode of ‘Queer Eye’ — but what I can do is give them the first step,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to give it my all — I’m going to listen to you, I’m gonna help you — but this is the television show, and though you’ve had the courage to come on here and share your [story], you still need to go continue to get help.”
Despite not being able to solve everyone’s problems from start to finish, Brown recognizes the value in being vulnerable and sharing personal stories to which others viewers might connect as they quietly struggle with similar issues.
“The reason that shows like mine … work [is] because it repeats itself,” Brown said. “The same thing that I had family members going through with their partners or with their kids [are what] people are in your family are going through. Understanding how to listen to their unique experience, and really give them advice that matches to what they’re going through has been beneficial.”
While Brown admits that filming up to six episodes per day can get “difficult,” completing a successful first season showed Brown that he was “built” for this work as he is certain he has the stamina to successfully do the job, adding that “I wasn’t running out of advice, I wasn’t running out of empathy.”
“I’ve never seen someone on a talk show, not worried about the show, but worried about the person,” Brown said. “I want to do a lot more with that, because this is real life for me — helping people is real for me. It’s what I’ve always done working in social services … and when I was in high school being a peer counselor, so I don’t want to stop doing that.”